What gets me excited about social bookmarking?

First, there’s personal organization. I could never get the
hang of bookmarks and folders, and it was hard to remember what to
search for.

Then there’s social discovery. I check my del.icio.us once in a
while in order to find out what the latest bookmarks are in a certain
area, although I’m now slightly annoyed about the fact that most
bookmarks are either stuff I’ve already seen or stuff I don’t care
about.

So that’s not what I really like, either.

I somewhat like using del.icio.us to share URLs, but those tend to be
special-purpose tags we’ve agreed on beforehand. I don’t really tell
people to check out my http://del.icio.us/sachac/social links, for
example, because there are just too many links for people to sort
through properly. It’s the problem of navigating through someone
else’s personal information space.

Social search a la http://myweb2.search.yahoo.com isn’t that big for
me either because (a) I’m not connected enough to get much better
search results, and (b) I don’t trust that all the relevant sites have
been bookmarked, so I may as well go through a regular search engine.

Hmmm.

On the other hand, using event- (http://del.icio.us/tag/torcamp) or
issue-oriented tags like digitalpinay
(http://del.icio.us/tag/digitalpinay) made it easy to quickly gather
bookmarks without having to set up some kind of groupblog or wiki.

And I totally, totally, totally love checking out people’s bookmarks
and getting an idea of their interests.

Totally.

That’s my killer app for del.icio.us. Stalking. ;) No, no, it’s called
keeping up with old friends and making new ones.

And that’s why people check out my bookmarks,
too. Okay, well, they don’t really have a choice because
I include my bookmarks in my blog feed for my tech-savvy friends who
read lots of blogs, so other geeks can’t help but notice whenever I
bookmark tango websites and whatnot.

I wonder if there’s a business use for this, like the way I would
_really_ like being able to flip through other people’s
bibliographies. Stuff like that.

I CAN DO THIS. I just have to make sure that it’s not a solution in
search of a problem! <laugh>

See, PhD students can spend time figuring out what the problem is and
then thinking up a solution. What’s a master’s student supposed to do?

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I’ve figured out why I’m here! =)

I love application essays. They make me think about what I’m doing
with my life. Sure, I could probably just make something up or use my
StatementOfPurpose from last time, but I actually like having to stop
and think.

And I’ve figured out a little bit more about how my project with Mark
Chignell fits into the grand scheme of things!

You see, I’d like to make it easy for people to collect and share
Internet resources that they’ve found useful. For example, consultants
in large software companies should be able to find out which documents
other consultants in their group found useful. They should be able to
find experts on a given topic, and they should be able to explore
other people’s interests too.

Although several web-based services allow social search and discovery,
they haven’t yet been widely adopted. My thesis will give me time to
think about what we can to do make these systems easier to use. My
human-computer interaction coursework will teach me how to measure the
effects of the changes we make to the interface. My background in
programming and computer science will allow me to quickly prototype
new interface designs.

And the grand scheme of things?

I think it would be fantastic if teachers could have that kind of
network. Imagine if I could filter my search for programming exercise
ideas according to what other introductory computer science teachers
found useful, or if I could explore what other people found useful.

Imagine if teachers could choose a set of useful webpages and make it
easy for students to prioritize those pages when searching. Imagine if
students could contribute their own hyperlinks. I think that would be
really cool.

But the interface needs to be much simpler, and it needs to be robust
and accessible. We can’t rely on constant high-speed Internet
connections. Consultants use laptops and teachers in the provinces
might connect only once in a while. Both sets of people are Really
Busy and don’t have the time or patience to muck about with
complicated interfaces. It needs to be simple and distributed, and it
needs to pack a lot of value.

Right.

That sounds like a great challenge. That’s what I want to do, and I
can see how it might be useful. If only because I would _love_ to know
what other teachers bookmark, and I want to have a quick and easy way
to tell people about interesting websites without flooding their
mailbox…

Mmkay. I’ll formalize this after I wake up, but I think I’m onto
something here.

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